Reality, like a fire alarm, has a way of giving us rude awakenings.
Fire alarms break the calm and silence like a toddler jumping hard onto a sleeping parent.
They awaken our anesthetized awareness to warn us of imminent or actual danger.
That’s why when I heard that the fire alarm in my next-door neighbor’s home began to holler at the hearers, I cocked by ear to hear more.
What force could awaken the lidless, watching eye of that alarm so that it activated ear-drum booms and blare to make us more aware?
It began with a storm.
South Carolinian storms flicker and flash with lightning and then crack the whip of the wind with thunder.
I do not exaggerate when I say that when I heard the thunder that day, the blast was louder than any I’d ever heard in the past.
The fire department arrived to address the neighbor’s alarm and told him that a large lightning bolt lashed either the ground or a home nearby.
The voltage from the bolt went viral as it travelled through multiple conduits only to wreck my neighbor’s water heater. According to the fire department, the heater’s thermostat melted and the wiring was becoming so hot that the entire home was in danger of catching fire.
Which meant my house could’ve also gone up in flames because of the proximity.
Three cheers for our local fire department for finding and ending the destructive danger!
Spiritual self-awareness is a lot like a fire alarm.
Self-awareness is when I tell myself the honest truth about my flaws, failures and faulty loves.
And if I’m honest, I treat my own self-awareness more like a car alarm than a fire alarm.
Do you remember the last time you heard your car alarm interrupt the calm and quiet of life?
When my car alarm screams, I stop it before I get shamed by someone. I initially care more about covering ME than I do about a potential or actual threat. Who wants to be glared at in embarrassment? But soon after the initial embarrassment I move on with life.
The car alarm raises my awareness but quickly dissipates like the afterglow of a firework.
A fire alarm won’t let me get away with shushing reality’s findings of real flaws, failures and faults.
The Christian story tells of the mistrust Adam and Eve hurled at God as they chose to distrust the warning that their maker graciously shared regarding eating forbidden fruit. (Check out Genesis 3)
God promised that partaking of that killer fruit would set off a chain reaction in reality that ended in perishing.
Before the disobedient distrust, they were prospering, naked, free of shame and uninhibited.
Distrust dismantled God’s good design and the result was not only self-awareness but painful self-awareness.
They manufactured make-shift costumes out of dead leaves to hide the dirty feelings that attended the merciless fact of their faults and failure.
But that’s like you and me hearing a fire alarm and then thinking that simply covering our ears will quiet the noise alerting us to danger.
Our culture’s Godless beliefs and practices have hit the mute button on God’s living voice. Most of us sleepwalk through life under the stupor of secularism (the philosophy that says that only material reality exists, not spiritual reality) because it plugs our ears to the sound of the gavel of guilt.
That’s why Matthew Vos, professor of sociology at Covenant College wrote “In the invisibility of our normality, there we find our idolatry.”
The “normal” de-godded routines and practices in our secular culture reveal idols like the excessive use of stuff, sex and substances to cover the cacophony of guilty shame our sin reveals.
But if we plug our ears to guilt, we will never hear the saving word of grace.
Peter, a follower of Jesus, had a “fire-alarm-moment” one day on a boat with Jesus (check out the details in Luke 5:1-9).
Jesus told him to fish and he told Jesus that he had already worked all night and there was no use. But just for kicks he went fishing just a little longer when he knew Jesus wouldn’t take no for an answer.
The nets puckered so full that they began to break and Peter’s eyes were as wide as saucers as he saw the power and perfection of Jesus.
His knees literally buckle as he shouts in painful self-awareness --“Leave me Lord, I am a sinful person.”
He breaks out in a spiritually allergic rash at the awareness of being in the presence of the living God.
But Jesus refused to leave Peter. Peter’s honest confession of the self-awareness of his sinful condition cracked open his hard heart so that softening love could flow in.
Grace is the only way to remove the grime of painful self-awareness.
Peter would follow Jesus long enough to see him perform the single, unrepeatable action of the atonement where Christ experienced the deserved destruction for our sins on the cross so that all who trust in Christ really have full and final forgiveness forever.
So the next time self-awareness sits up straight and screams in your conscience will you silence it like a car alarm or respect it like a fire alarm?
If you’re honest about your sin, all you will ever hear from the Father is……FORGIVEN!”
Metro North Church